In the first year of rule of Cyrus, the King of Persia, Jews were given permission to return to Israel and rebuild the Holy Temple. A group of Jews led by Zerubavel set out for Jerusalem and began working on the second Temple. However, the Cutheans falsely accused the Jews of plotting a rebellion against King Cyrus and were successful in halting the construction of the Holy Temple for the remainder of his reign and throughout the reign of Ahasuerus, his successor. Construction resumed in the second year of the reign of Darius, Ahasuerus's son, on the 24th of Kislev.
The eight-day festival of Chanukah begins tonight. In commemorartion of the miracle of the oil (see "Today in Jewish History" for Kislev 25) we kindle the Chanukah lights -- oil lamps or candles -- each evening for eight days, increasing the number of lights each evening. Tonight, the first night of Chanukah, we kindle one light. (In the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall; this evening, then, commences the 1st day of Chanukah).
On the 1st night of Chanukah, we recite three blessings before lighting; for text and audio of the blessings, click here.
For a more detailed guide to Chanukah lighting click here.
The lights—which ideally should be kindled soon after sunset—must burn for at least half an hour after nightfall. Learn more about the proper lighting time here.
For additional Chanukah observances, see Laws & Customs for tomorrow, Kislev 25.
When the divine spark within us awakens to the divine, what is the wonder?
But that is not objective of meditation, of prayer and of acts of kindness.
It is that the beast within us should lift its eyes to the heavens, that the dark side of a human creature should let in a little light, that a human ego should do good despite itself—and that is truly wondrous. How can darkness know light? How can earth know heaven?
Only with the power of He who is beyond both darkness and light, heaven and earth.
Maamar Bati LeGani I & II 5734; Torat Chaim, Noach, p. 60.